The Football Association begins an investigation into claims that referee Mark Clattenburg racially abused a Chelsea player during Sunday’s clash with Man United.
The FA has received an “extraordinary incident report” from Mr Clattenburg, alongside another report from the Premier League’s match delegate at yesterday’s Premier League game at Stamford Bridge.
Professional Game Match Officials, which represents referees, said he would not officiate at any matches over the next week.
The organisation said: “Professional Game Match Officials believe that with any football match, the focus should not be on the officials, but on the players and the game itself.
“Mark Clattenburg is one of the elite referees in world football and in these circumstances the intense level of scrutiny would detract from the match and be unfair to the clubs and the supporters of both sides.”
Mr Clattenburg has received the “full support” of the referees’ union, Prospect, which said it was important the allegations were “fully investigated through the proper process as quickly as possible”.
Chelsea have complained that Mr Clattenburg used “inappropriate language” towards two of their players during the controversial 2-3 Man Utd victory.
It is understood that one of the complaints relates to alleged racial abuse directed against midfielder John Obi Mikel. The other complaint is believed to concern Juan Mata.
Before the alleged incident, Mr Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players, Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres. Mikel, who was booked for dissent during the match, is believed to have confronted him afterwards.
After matches, referees are able to submit “etxraordinary incident reports” if they choose to, and the FA received one of these from Mr Clattenburg on Monday.
The FA released a statement today, saying: “The FA has begun an investigation relating to allegations made following Sunday’s fixture at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United. The FA will make no further comment at this time.”
As part of the investigation, the assistant referees and fourth official are also likely to be questioned. They were wearing earpieces and should have heard what Mr Clattenburg said.
Racism in football has become a big issue in recent months, with Chelsea captain John Terry and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez receiving four- and eight-match suspensions for racially abusing, respectively, Anton Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.
Terry was forced to sit out yesterday’s game because of the suspension.
Former referee Jeff Winter told BBC Radio 5 Live that Mr Clattenburg would not be able to referee another match if found guilty.
“If a match official has used racial insults or language to a player then he’s for the high jump,” he said.
“He won’t be getting a four-match or an eight-match ban, it’ll probably be the end of his career, but that is if indeed he did say anything.
“I feel it very unlikely that Mark Clattenburg would be allowed to referee until it’s dealt with, so we certainly don’t want this going on for weeks and months.”
Mr Clattenburg was unavailable for comment directly, but Professional Game Match Officials said he had promised to co-operate with any investigation.